Accident or Incident?
“I can’t believe we’re outside, in shorts, with boys and your mother doesn’t expect us home. It’s hard to believe it’s safe!” says my new South African friend. It’s four o’clock in the afternoon on a prairie summer day and we’re gorging ourselves on ice-cream with a group of classmates.
“Is your mom going to be angry? What’s unsafe?” I panic thinking maybe she didn’t ask her mom permission and my Mum is going to skin me alive as a result.
“No,” she says, “Mom says it’s okay here in Canada, but I’m still getting used to it.”
Her answer to my questions tumbled out with stories about compounds, gated communities, and being shot at on family camping trips. How strange it was that the only door in the house that had a dead bolt was the front door. She’d never had a bedroom without one before. What glorious freedom to be rambling outside with friends at the scandalously late hour of four in the afternoon!
She explained many things I’d never heard of before; apartheid, Nelson Mandela, HIV and AIDS hiring discrimination and the terrifying concept of rape. She explained that teenage girl’s like ourselves were targets and often victims of sexual abuse; virgins being perceived as the only surefire protection against sexual disease.
My Childhood friend from South Africa profoundly changed my worldview with her stories of home. I felt her influence when reading outraged comments of disbelief that Oscar Pistorius stated he “felt extremely vulnerable” without his prosthetic legs and that this lead in part to his actions.
Oscar Pistorius has been splashed across front pages internationally for shooting and killing his girlfriend in the middle of the night on Valentine’s Day through a closed door. A media storm has swirled around the popular Olympic figure who made history as the first disabled man to compete in the Olympics in London this past summer. His formerly brilliant future is now darkened by grisly premeditated murder charges.
I suspect that the mark of fear that my friend experienced in her native country is difficult to forget. I don’t know Oscar, his life story, or how the events that have shaped his nation have in turn shaped him…but my friend showed me how different each man and woman’s path in life can be. I think it is possible to experience blinding, crippling fear and make a mistake that affects a lifetime.
Oscar Pistorius will be held accountable for the untimely death of his girlfriend and judged by the native laws of his country. I choose to give Oscar the benefit of the doubt. He will be culpable for his actions regardless. Manslaughter or murder, he still took a life. I believe his statement is more credible than it at first appears. I hope I’m not wrong.
My condolences go out to the family of Reeva Steenkamp. I hope they find comfort and solace during this difficult time.
What’s your view on this controversial case?
My earlier blog post from the Olympics can be found here.
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